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Gaining trust of her community

Thin Pyun village is located in Myingyan Township and it is about 10 miles away from Myingyan Town. Ma Khin Mar San, 23 years old, lives in Thin Pyun village, and is one of the VDC members. She has four family members and she is the elder daughter in her family. She studied until 10th standard and now she is sewing clothes as her own business in that village.

When she heard about UN-Habitat's WASH Shae Thot Program, Ma Khin Mar San was very keen to participate in the project activities. She wanted to do something for her village. She went to the community meeting and listened to the discussions (usually, only men participate in the meeting and take the leading role in making decisions). At the meeting UN-Habitat staff explained about the project and why they need to organize the Village Development Committee (VDC) and how (on what criteria) VDC members would be selected. UN-Habitat staff gave the guidelines on how to form the VDC and encouraged women's participation in the committee. Ma Khin Mar San was very eager to participate in the VDC. The community nominated the VDC members during the community mass meeting. If they agreed to accept the person as a committee member they raised their hands and if they did not agree they did not. By that means, they organized the committee.

When people selected her as a treasurer she was very happy and she felt motivated because of gaining the trust of her community. The VDC is comprised of Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer, Accountant and the rest are members. Of the two women selected, one is Secretary and the other one is Accountant. Ma Khin Mar San's main responsibility was to keep the money and issue funds for labor charges, machine operation and materials purchase. She also mobilized other women to participate in the project implementation at all levels. She practiced accountability and transparency while handling the money and issuing the payments. She had to record every installment received with signature of the recipient. In this way people can easily know the money balance in her hand and how much was used.

"I did not trust their ability to work on the project. Now, I understand that women participation in the project can bring success for our village.I am impressed with them because they can make the right decisions. They can also conduct meetings well and can discuss issues properly."

When they went to UN-Habitat office to get payment for the project implementation they went at least 3 persons, treasurer, accountant and chairperson or secretary. UN-Habitat explained about the People's Process and why the community contract was needed between UN-Habitat and the community. UN-Habitat also explained about the payment by 3 installments. Once the first payment of 60% was issued, the VDC had to buy the materials and start project implementation. To purchase the materials they needed to get 3 or 4 quotations from different shops for transparency and after that they had to choose the price and the quality of the materials decided by the VDC members. After finishing the completion report for the first stage, UN-habitat dispersed the second payment of 30%. When the work is finished, the last payment of 10% will be paid.

At the beginning she felt a little nervous since she did not have any experience in finance. But UN-Habitat staff trained her in book keeping, accounting, reporting and supervising the project. She learned how to manage finances in a systematic way and she can apply this in her own business. Ma Khin Mar San said "This is a very good practice for my career and I will apply it in the future development of my business."

Women empowerment is very obvious in the project implementation. Upon her work the VDC Chairperson U Myint Soe expressed his opinion as "The treasurer is very honest. She keeps all records for payment and balance. She can mobilize other women to participate in the project activities. Their nature is very nice. For many of us, this was our first experience working with women. Previously, we neglected women's participation and their decisions. We thought they had no idea compare to men and so men always took the leading role in all activities. Unfortunately, some men misused money for their personal gain, and others still abused it on alcohol.

Initially, I was not so much agreed with women participation as the VDC member. I did not trust their ability to work on the project. Now, I understand that women participation in the project can bring success for our village. They are accountable and transparent in accounting, bookkeeping and issuing for payments. For example - when they issue payments for machine operator, they went together with the committee members and they calculate in front of them and got the recipient's signature. This system is very good and so we decided to keep this system and apply it in the future.

I am impressed with them because they can make the right decisions. They can also conduct meetings well and can discuss issues properly."

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